Partnerships Can Develop Energy Alternatives

There is a problem that needs to be addressed—a big, new market with major opportunities for your company, an inflection point that could bring burgeoning growth for leaders and innovators who are willing to take bold new steps.

The world is running out of oil. As of 2004, there was no major underutilized oil source left anywhere in the world—94 percent of all available oil has already been discovered. Many oil company proponents suggest that when oil prices go up, more reserves will magically appear. But the curve is steep, and the shortages will only get worse.

Technology leadership is needed to develop practical energy alternatives. Automation companies have knowledge and experience that applies in this arena. Find ways for your company to get involved. Here are some suggestions.

Think long term

The problem with developing new energy sources is that everyone expects this to be done with short-term capitalistic motivation. And that is simply not possible, when competing with the current costs of oil, and the tremendous investments already made in the infrastructure—extraction, pipelines, transportation, refining and distribution.

America already has the technology needed to develop practical energy alternatives. Take solar energy—the United States can get 100 percent of its energy requirements from the power released by sunlight radiating over the desert regions of the Southwest.

Hydrogen can be made from many different sources of energy, such as wind, biomass, geothermal, fossil and nuclear. Hydrogen is a clean universal fuel that can be used to power cars, trucks, planes, trains, buses, boats and ships. It can heat homes and commercial buildings, and generate electricity. It can replace all forms of fossil fuels.

Many experienced people insist that the only energy efficient source available today is nuclear, which can easily serve all requirements for the foreseeable future. The problem is safety. But that is widely misunderstood. Nuclear advocates point out that a nuclear power plant has the lowest environmental impact of anything available today, for the amount of energy produced. The energy density of nuclear fission (energy available per kilogram of fuel) is the highest of any option today. Clearly, a major investment in clean, safe nuclear energy production must be a major objective.

The solutions to energy alternatives are to be found in technology. The future brings hope with several energy technology alternatives: solar cells, hydrogen fuel and energy-cells, clean coal, CO2 recycling, synthetic fuels and safe nuclear power. New nanotechnology materials and production methodologies are showing great promise.

The automation industry has all the background knowledge and experience needed to make a significant impact in these vital arenas.

If you’re an automation supplier, simply waiting for Exxon or Shell to upgrade their plants and equipment won’t win you much new business. Look around for new energy projects that will bring not just extrapolation of your present business, but new burgeoning growth. Some of these companies are already your customers. Don’t wait to be asked to bid controls and instruments after the project is ready for production. Instead, seek out energy projects where your company can contribute and offer partnership involvement.

If you’re an automation end-user developing new energy solutions, don’t go the old-fashioned route and handle projects secretly on your own. You’ll find that there are many automation suppliers who have significant, applicable experience and are willing to share development ideas and instrumentation approaches. Select your best suppliers as partners.

Practical and immediate technology and business leadership is needed. Significant growth and success awaits the companies that succeed.

Jim Pinto is an industry analyst and commentator, writer, technology futurist and angel investor. You can e-mail him at: Or review his prognostications and predictions on his Web site:

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